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Vivaldi on the cello

28 Aug

After Sam’s surgery, chemo was really, really difficult. He felt worse, had less energy, more pain, limited mobility and lots of frustration. I was also burning out. I had spent almost every night with him, nearly 45 nights, had taken him to countless appointments, entertained him, enticed him with food, and attempted to keep my family somewhat intact. There was one night when we were in the hospital when I was feeling drained. The music therapist set up a chair a little bit down the hallway from Sam’s room and took out her mahogany cello. She began to play Vivaldi. The sweeping archs of the music and the deep baritone notes were overwhelming. It was the same music that played at my wedding, and the odd juxtaposition of the memories of dreaming about the future with the reality of listening to the music in the hospital while caring for my son with cancer was unsettling. I began to cry, which worried Sam, which then prompted me to explain. But how could I? How could I tell my son that I was so angry and resentful that cancer had entered our lives and taken over? How could I say that without him feeling guilty, as he is wont to do? So I just told him about my wedding, and how beautiful everything was. I told him that it was such a happy occasion, and that he would have enjoyed it. And I cried.


Kids say the darndest things

28 Aug

I love that phrase. I’m not sure if it’s the word, “darndest” or just that I chuckle whenever I think it. But it’s true! Today, while reviewing similes with my 11th graders, one student shared, “You are as cute as a baby.” I didn’t quite hear “you”, so I asked who? And the student said, “You, Mrs. Becker.” So I am as cute as a baby. Hmmmm. I really hope that she didn’t plan that one out. It would be hard to enforce rules if my students are thinking that I am cute. Could she have meant pretty? Did she like my outfit? I was wearing a spiffy coral scarf that my cousin sent from Singapore. Was “baby” the only thing that she could think to compare it to? Or did she misunderstand my question? Regardless, it made me chuckle.

Value Line-Up and Fold

28 Apr

When responses to a question can be represented as ranges in value this is a great strategy to gather data and to get students of opposing views to discuss.  Sample questions to use include:

To what extent do you agree with the statement?

What percentage of your research paper is complete?

1) Teacher poses a question with a range of values.

2) Students line up from greatest to least (or whatever the range descriptors are).

3) The line folds so that the people on the two ends are facing each other as partners.  Partners are identified along the folded line.

4) A new discussion question is posed, perhaps explaining their position in the line, or reflecting on how to move to a different spot on the line.

Variation: If the endpoints of the range are too extreme, identify the midpoint, and have one half of the line slide, so that the person in the middle is now partnered with the person at the end.


28 Apr

Think-Pair-Share is one of the simplest discourse strategies.  It provides students with a safe environment in which to try out their answers before sharing with the large group.  Scroll down to see a few variations.

1) Teacher poses a question for discussion.

2) Students think individually.

3) Students pair up and discuss their responses.

4) Students share their responses with the larger group.

Think-Pair-Square: Before sharing with the large group, pairs form squares and discuss responses.

Think-Pair-Octagon: After forming squares, groups continue to match up, forming octagons, then groups of 16, until the group re-forms as a whole.

Team-Pair-Solo: Students first tackle a question as a group, then as a pair, and finally on their own.

Think-Pair-Share was originally developed by Frank Lyman.  The other variations were developed by Spencer Kagan.

Discourse Cards

25 Feb

1. Create a notecard for each of the following:

  • Agree/Disagree Share whether you agree or disagree with a comment or explanation.  Be sure to explain your agreement or disagreement.
  • Restate Repeat what was just said in your own words. (Not directions!)
  • Check/Repeat Clarify in your own words what the teacher or a classmate says.  “So you’re saying…”
  • Further Participation Add a comment to the class discussion.  (This may also be an explanation of a concept.)
  • Questions Ask a classmate a question or for clarification.

2. After explaining each card, pass the cards out randomly to students prior to a discussion.  Tell them that they are expected to participate in the discussion according to the directions on their card.

3. After students participate, either collect thier card, or have them randomly pass it to a classmate, and continue the discussion.

Created by Rebecca Green, 7th grade math teacher at William H. Farquhar MS, and is an adaptation of the 5 Talk Moves from Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn. Chapin, O’Connor, and Anderson.